Former Marine Larry Whitten, 63, after buying a run-down hotel in Taos, New Mexico, set up some new rules. The idea was to turn around the Paragon Inn (now renamed the Whitten Inn), as he had other distressed hotels he bought in recent years. Rule 1, requiring the Hispanic hotel workers to Anglicize their names, and forbidding them to speak Spanish in his presence, went over like you might expect in this liberal NM town: badly.

Examples or Anglicizing names include Marcos becoming Mark, and Martin (Mahr-TEEN) becoming Martin. In terms of forbidding them from speaking Spanish, after he arrived, Whitten met with the employees, noted they were hostile to his management style and worried they might start talking about him in Spanish. Aha.

He’s fired some, who apparently couldn’t adjust to his style (or perhaps wouldn’t change their names to suit him). Besides workers, the town has not adjusted to his style, either, and they’re not happy with what they perceive as racism.

Protester Juanito Burns Jr., who stated he is “prime minister” of an activist group called Los Brown Berets de Nuevo Mexico said, “I do feel he’s a racist, but he’s a racist out of ignorance. He doesn’t know that what he’s doing is wrong.”

After the firings, the New Mexico branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), a national civil rights group, sent Whitten a letter. Whitten alleged that the group referred to him with a racial slur. LULAC denied the charge.

Whitten has also made critical statements in interviews with local media, further incensing residents. He referred to residents as “mountain people” and “potheads who escaped society.”

HE was somewhat more apologetic, speaking with AP. “What kind of fool or idiot or poor businessman would I be to orchestrate this whole crazy thing that’s costed (sic) me a lot of time, money and aggravation?”

Originally on SNAFU-ed


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